WASHINGTON -- The Nationals had just played one of their cleanest games of the season to cruise to a victory on Wednesday night, when Howie Kendrick stood in front of his locker and told reporters one of defining messages of this recent stretch -- “It's great for tonight,” he said, “but we got to do it consistently.”
Indeed, consistency has been one of the biggest issues for these scuffling Nationals, who have followed each of their seemingly momentum-building wins with a deflating loss. In fact, they had not even won back-to-back games in roughly a month, having last done so April 17th and 18th. That was until Thursday afternoon’s 7-6 victory at Nationals Park, the Nats’ second win in a row over the Mets to seal Washington’s first series win in a month and match a season-high winning streak at … two games.
“It feels really good,” manager Dave Martinez said. “The boys, they played really well the last few days, and that’s what we’ve talked about, playing clean baseball. … That’s what I tell these guys. You have to pick each other up every now and then. It’s not always going to be pretty, but the next guy has to pick the guy before him up. And they did that today.”
If Washington is truly going to turn this disappointing season around, the Nats will need to start stringing together consecutive wins and perhaps a long winning streak. They still believe the have the capability to do so, but the biggest culprit behind their inconsistency has been the offense.
Since winning those consecutive games against the Giants, the Nationals dropped 17 of their next 25 games, scoring just 3.4 runs per game in that span, the second fewest in MLB, trailing only the Marlins (2.6). At the start of the day Thursday, the Nationals were batting .215/.285/.345 following a win, with a 3-13 record, the worst in the Majors.
But their lineup is starting to get healthier. Trea Turner could return as soon as this weekend against the Cubs. Anthony Rendon is beginning to heat up after a few games back from the injured list. Juan Soto is still knocking off some of the rust from his stint on the IL, but he is also back in the middle of their order.
On Thursday, the offense ambushed Mets starter Zack Wheeler for four runs in the first inning on run-scoring hits from Rendon, Gerardo Parra and Kurt Suzuki. Parra, who finished 3-for-3 and a triple away from the cycle, added the go-ahead two-run homer in the fifth and scored a tack on run in the seventh off a Suzuki single.
“That was kind of something we were emphasizing, we score some runs early to keep pecking away,” Suzuki said. “Doesn't mean we have to score four every inning, but four, one, two, one, just kind of keep adding on and keep putting the pressure on them.”
Parra making impact quickly in D.C.
Sometimes a fresh start can re-energize a player and although it’s only five games into Parra’s career with the Nationals, the 32-year-old seems like a different player than the one who was designated for assignment by the Giants a week ago.
“I hope so,” Parra said. “I’m the guy, I bring energy every day. If I’m playing, not playing. Win, lose. Baseball has an opportunity every day, so you need to come in positive. You need to come in here with the best you have every day.”
And that so far, he has been a welcome addition to the Nationals. He filled up the stat sheet on Thursday, collecting three hits, three RBIs, a walk and a stolen base. In five games, he is batting .294/.368/.765 with two homers and seven RBIs while playing first base for the first time in two years.
His hits have also been timely -- a go-ahead grand slam in the eighth inning Saturday, breaking up a no-hitter with a ground-rule double Sunday, the aforementioned go-ahead homer in the fifth Thursday and a stolen base after a walk in the seventh inning to put himself on second base to score after Suzuki’s single.
“[Parra’s] been tremendous,” Martinez said. “He’s a veteran guy that has played for a while, just loves to play the game. He is very vocal in the clubhouse, too, which I like, and on the bench and with everybody. But especially with the Latin players, he’s been really, really good. And he came up with some big hits today. I’m happy we got him, he was available and we picked him up, and he’s a big part of our success the last few days.”